MASON CITY, Iowa — For folks who work with the Kinney Pioneer Museum near the Mason City Municipal Airport, living history has been a little less alive over the past year.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the museum, which has operated for 53 years, hasn’t been open to the public since July 2020 when its Board of Trustees unanimously voted not to open for the season.
So, no celebratory events, no new displays to show off to visitors and no tours to give.
“I just want to show everybody what they have. I want everybody to know what they have and what they’re missing out on,” Museum Director Kay Ingersoll told the Globe Gazette.
For her, that’s been the most difficult part of the closure. She misses the visitors.
But last weekend, the museum grounds felt a little less lonely as Kinney Pioneer officials opened back up for the 2021 season with an outdoor lunch that featured pulled pork sandwiches. According to Ingersoll, the timing and nature of the event is actually rooted in the Museum’s own history.
“I think about 50 years ago they started roasting a pig out there at the museum and now it’s an annual thing,” she said.
To end each year, Ingersoll and Museum treasurer John Barron explained that they help put on an apple cider and doughnut day.
“We always have a special feature each month which helps us raise funds to keep the museum open,” Barron said.
For him, what’s been most difficult about being closed for a year is that the demands of a museum don’t stop simply because it isn’t open.
“Expenses go on and museums are noted for a being a cash cow. You have to maintain,” Barron said. “You have to be prudent.” He’s been on the board for at least 10 years, while Ingersoll has served as director for seven years.
Beyond last weekend’s event, Barron and Ingersoll confirmed that the museum will be back open Tuesday through Sunday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m. and operate through October.
They said that the time off has allowed for them to update some of their displays such as one for the old Jefferson Highway, which once ran through North Iowa, and another to recognize the women’s suffrage movement, which Charles City’s own Carrie Chapman Catt was crucially involved with.
“It’s just amazing what you find out about people and what they’ve contributed,” Ingersoll said. “There are too many people in Mason City who get a lot of credit but these other people did it without recognition. They poured their heart and soul into Mason City and nobody knows their name.”
Ingersoll said that’s part of what she loves so much about her job: She constantly gets to learn about all of the “unknowns” who help move things along in the area. The folks who put in the necessary work.
“I’m learning so much and I want to know every single thing about every single person. I think I was born in the wrong era. I want to know who those people were, what they were thinking and what they were about.”
Jared McNett, The Associated Press